By Reginald Williams,
Special to the AFRO

The most effective way to live healthier is by persistently eating nutrient-dense foods—not exercising more.  

The new year arrived with millions of fleeting New Year’s resolutions. Nationwide, people made vows to live healthier, and exercise topped the list of the best way to achieve that goal.  

“Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for optimal health,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s research.

Exercise is a pillar in holistic wellness because of the movement, which is the core of exercising. Exercise builds muscle which improves stability and balance, makes your bones more durable, reduces the risk of heart disease, improves cardiorespiratory endurance, and stimulates endorphins, those hormones that relieve pain and boost mental health by feeling better.

According to, exercising or doing it more often has served as the No. 1 resolution for the past three years. That healthier frame of mind is evident in new gym memberships, which surge in January and begin to decline at some point in February before experiencing a precipitous drop in April.

While exercise is an excellent option for optimal health, you cannot exercise your way out of a poor diet. Diet trumps exercise. As important as exercising is, eating clean, healthy foods must be the engine that drives living a healthier lifestyle.  

“Although exercising has many health benefits, it does not cancel the harmful effects of a poor diet. A poor diet does not provide the nutrients your body needs to be supported in your exercise performance,” said Dr. Tierra Hardin, founder of the College Park, Md., based Noble Integrative Health.

Reducing debilitating diseases begins with diet.   

“If you want to reduce your risk of disease in the body, reduce your intake of processed foods. It is important to keep your diet as close to natural as possible,” explained Dr. Sharon E. Hawks, registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of The Nutrition and Diabetes Education Center in Glen Dale, MD. “Research suggests that by doing so, you can reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease by 30 percent.”

Doctors say that food can serve as a form of medicine when a diet is packed with nutrients that behave like fuel to the body.

“It is very important to integrate clean eating habits for our health and well-being. It helps to prevent chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. Clean eating improves our immune system, brain and heart health, our gut microbiome, and more. It improves our overall health, mind, body, and spirit,” explains Hardin. 

Experts say food can either replenish the body on a cellular level or kick off a chain of destructive events within the body, depending on the choices made. African Americans are encouraged to begin consuming unprocessed and unrefined foods, which provide a metabolic structure for better health. 

“One of the biggest reasons for this increased risk of disease is that processed foods can increase inflammation in the body. Almost every disease can be linked back to high levels of inflammation,” said Hawks. 

Health officials agree that Ideal health begins with internal fitness. It is common for people eating healthy to lose sizable portions of weight having done minimal exercise. In contrast, those eating highly processed and refined foods struggle to lose weight despite consistently exercising. 

It takes approximately three hours to burn the 1,300 calories consumed by eating a supersized hamburger, fries and a soda.  

Adrian Quarles, is now a witness to the power of focusing on a diet change, rather than becoming a gym addict. He lost 70 pounds in seven months. Though he was walking roughly five miles per day, he says it was his diet that fueled his weight loss. 

“I figured exercise was the major reason I lost weight, but I realized my diet had a lot to do with it,” Quarles said. “I normally eat oatmeal at five in the morning. If I eat lunch, it’s normally homemade vegetarian chili made with black and navy beans. I eat dinner no later than 5 p.m. and I fast until the next day. I also drink a lot of water.”

Though eating healthier may seem like a simple change, many find that a palatable diet is half the battle of eating healthy. People often need clarification about what they should eat. What diet to utilize, how many meals to eat daily, how many calories to consume or what’s the best time to eat baffles the masses. There is much to consider, and one must always be prepared to adjust the plan.

Fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts should comprise at least 80 percent of daily foods. These healthy choices will satiate your hunger.

Grapes (antioxidant and great for cleansing red blood cells) and melons—strawberries, blackberries, watermelons, cantaloupes, and papayas—are excellent for digestion and cleansing the gastrointestinal tract. Most melons also act as diuretics, making them excellent food choices for people with water retention issues. 

Fruits are rich in antioxidants that protect against cancer. Fruits are also a good source of hydration. Water from fruit is more hydrating than drinking water. Eating fruit for breakfast instead of sugary-filled cereals, processed oats, enriched bagels or toast provides minerals that produce sustainable energy. 

A healthy meal plan is incomplete without vegetables—kale, spinach, broccoli and asparagus, which doubles as an excellent diuretic, along with green beans, bell peppers and onions—especially red onions, are all excellent choices. Vegetables are also rich in antioxidants and provide a constellation of natural vitamins. While the thought of dining on leafy greens may not have the appeal of a sirloin steak, vegetables, when prepared at home, can create amazing meals. 

Unfortunately, the discipline to eat healthy too often revolves around the thought of restriction—what you shouldn’t eat. However, eating healthy is more about expansion, the willingness to expand one’s palette. While exercise is an excellent choice for living healthier, exercising good eating habits will supersize your health benefits. 

Reginald Williams, the author of “A Marginalized Voice: Devalued, Dismissed, Disenfranchised & Demonized” writes on Black men and Holistic Health concerns. Please email or visit for more information.